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Copper Center Game Guide Charged with 17 Hunting Offenses

Published On: Nov 15 2013 02:21:01 PM AKST   Updated On: Nov 15 2013 02:41:51 PM AKST

A Copper Center game guide has been charged with more than a dozen offenses occurring over a four-year period, after Alaska State Troopers seized an aircraft allegedly used in their commission.

According to a statement from AST spokesperson Megan Peters, criminal charges were filed Thursday against Klutina Lodge owner Jimmy V. West, 60, by the state Department of Law’s Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals.

“The case was an ongoing investigation; it was first opened in 2011,” Peters said.

West was found to have unlawfully guided a 2009 big game hunt in the Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve without a federal commercial use concession, following a joint investigation by Alaska Wildlife Troopers and the National Park Service.

“In 2011 and again in 2012, West trespassed on Native owned lands within the Copper River valley while conducting guided black bear hunts over his registered bear bait sites, harvested a black bear while accompanying a paying client in the field in violation of state guiding statutes, and failed to remove his bear bait stations at the end of season as required by state law,” Peters wrote.

Court documents show that Hunt has been charged with 17 misdemeanors including eight counts of committing, aiding or allowing a violation of law as a guide, five counts of guiding a hunt on private land, two counts of failing to clean a bear bait station, and one count each of taking game with a client in the field and making a false statement on a temporary bear sealing certificate.

“As part of the investigation, Troopers seized a Cessna 185 aircraft from West in August that was used in the commission of some of the charged violations,” Peters wrote.

Peters says the Cessna will be returned to West if the case is dismissed or he is found not guilty; if he is found guilty a judge may offer him an opportunity to repurchase it, but otherwise the state may auction it off or keep it. The aircraft’s seizure required proper paperwork, which had to be revised as troopers honed in on its location.

“We had a search warrant for it,” Peters said. “We actually had a search warrant for a while, but we didn’t know where it was.”

The case follows another high-profile forfeiture of assets by a gaming guide last month, with 72-year-old Haines man Ronald Martin surrendering assets at his sentencing including a Piper PA-18 Super Cub, a Ford F-250 pickup truck, a Honda all-terrain vehicle and a rifle. Martin, who also received a $40,000 fine and four years’ probation, admitted to leading at least 10 illegal brown bear hunts between 2002 and 2011.

While all of the charges against West carry a maximum of a year in jail, Peters says some carry maximum $30,000 fines and many carry $10,000 maximum fines. Arraignment dates for West are pending in Glennallen District Court.